Guinea: Act now to ensure greater support and assistance for survivors of sexual violence

Victims of sexual violence in Guinea face social stigma, a lack of available medical care and serious barriers to justice, Amnesty International, International Planned Parenthood Federation and Africa Region (IPPFAR) said today in a new report. Shame must change attitudes and guarantee rights and justice for victims of sexual violence in Guinea“.

Based on interviews with rape survivors, administrative, judicial, traditional and religious authorities, health care professionals, diplomats, and civil society representatives, the report analyzes the many obstacles to providing effective rape care, forensic examination, psychological support, and access. for justice in Guinea. For many survivors, justice remains elusive.

Victims and their families repeatedly told us that the horrific sexual violence they experienced was exacerbated by societal judgments, but silence is beginning to break the rape cases and civil society is moving to denounce sexual violence.”

Samira Daoud, Regional Director for West and Central Africa at Amnesty International.

“Despite recent efforts by the authorities to address the issue of sexual violence, much remains to be done in terms of information, prevention, access to care and justice to respect Guinea’s obligations under international and regional human rights laws.”

In 2021, the Office for the Protection of Gender, Children and Ethics (Oprogem) and the Special Brigade for the Protection of Vulnerable Persons (BSPPV) – specialized units within the police and gendarmerie – dealt with more than 400 cases of rape, and most of the victims were minors, some under the age of 13. This report shows that the real numbers of rape cases are undoubtedly higher, especially considering the practice of extrajudicial settlement and the greater number of cases being treated in medical centers.

social stigma

Victims of sexual violence and their families often face severe judgment in their communities amid widespread social stigmatization.

The mother of the girl who said she was raped told Amnesty International of the stigma her child had suffered:

“[…] When we went to the hospital, one of the doctors said, “This is the little girl who was raped.” This painful. Everywhere you go, people refer to it. She is always confined to the house. She does not go out. You hardly communicate with people. She wants to go back to school but it’s not possible.”

The authorities should make more efforts to develop awareness and education campaigns to address the underlying social and cultural attitudes that discriminate against women and facilitate and perpetuate violence against them. These campaigns should promote zero tolerance for violence against women, dispel harmful stereotypes and myths associated with rape, eliminate the stigma associated with women victims of violence, and encourage victims to seek redress.

The urgent need to improve access to care, sexual and reproductive rights and psychosocial support

Guinea lacks an effective toll-free phone number for victims to report sexual violence and receive medical and legal advice. Despite some initiatives such as the establishment of comprehensive centers providing care and legal support, the availability, quality and accessibility of the health system must be enhanced for victims, who are often of low economic status. Many survivors are unable to obtain effective medical and psychological care or to realize their right to sexual and reproductive health. Most specialized medical practices in the capital, Conakry, and the cost of care can sometimes prevent victims from seeking treatment.

A doctor told Amnesty International: “We can provide free consultations and reports. But if people have complications that require surgery or infectious complications that require treatment, we cannot do it for free.”

“The social stigma associated with rape in Guinea, which often results in an underreporting of crime and a lack of complaints, leaves survivors of these atrocities without access to medical care, psychosocial support as well as legal assistance to access justice and redress,” said Marie. – Evelyn Petros Barry, IPPFAR Regional Director.

“Gender-based violence in all its forms is recognized as a human rights violation by the international human rights legal framework and jurisprudence. Gender inequality, power imbalances and lack of respect for human rights are often root causes of these heinous acts and prevent survivors from accessing and enjoying their health and rights full sexual and reproductive rights. As human rights defenders, we must all take a stand and put an end to these unjustified actions”, added Petros Barry.

Access to justice is an obstacle for victims

Although real progress has been made through the amendment of legal frameworks in recent years and the development of specialized police and gendarmerie units to respond to cases of sexual violence, access to justice in Guinea remains a difficult obstacle for victims of sexual violence, while perpetrators often enjoy impunity . The martial authorities were able to press for out-of-court settlements that led to trials being dropped, which is against the law and against the rights of survivors.

Although forensic professionals are in short supply and providing a forensic medical certificate is not a legal requirement to file a complaint, it is often required in practice. And even when this document is not required by the police or the gendarmerie, its absence becomes a major obstacle to a possible conviction in court.

A lack of resources and training to address and investigate sexual violence often hampers judicial investigations, negatively impacting victims’ pursuit of justice. In the absence of effective and free legal aid for those who cannot afford a lawyer, only NGOs are able to provide legal support.

Similarly, the justice system in Guinea lacks resources. The majority of judges, most of whom are men, work in poor conditions. The rape survivors’ report highlights that some of them perpetuate patriarchal stereotypes while dealing with cases of sexual violence.

Moreover, the fact that the survivors of the September 28, 2009 massacre had to wait 13 years to finally hope for justice and reparation, was a powerful symbol of impunity; Meanwhile, the defense and security forces killed more than 150 protesters and committed sexual crimes against more than 100 women in a stadium in Conakry that day.

To strengthen their response to sexual violence, the Guinean authorities should urgently pass a comprehensive law on gender-based violence, among other recommendations highlighted in the report to strengthen the capacity of the judiciary, police and other law enforcement authorities and social and health workers, to ensure full implementation of legal provisions aimed at addressing violence against women .

The Guinean authorities promised that they would combat violence against women and rape. We urge them to take concrete steps to strengthen state efforts to prevent sexual violence, and ensure care and justice for survivors,”

Samira Daoud

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